Two-day event brought together more than 70 leaders in advanced manufacturing with the aim of shaping the future of a £98m world-class facility for the industry.

Minister Burns visited the Northern Ireland Technology Centre and the Polymer Processing Research Centre where he saw collaborative university-industry R&D and was updated on progress for the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (AMIC), a Belfast Region City Deal project, which will be a springboard for manufacturing innovation in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns with Peter Martin, director of the Polymer Processing Centre at Queen’s, Kara Bailie, deputy director of strategic programmes at Queen’s and John Walsh, chief executive of Belfast City Council

In mid-April, AMIC hosted a two-day Technology Roadmapping event facilitated by the Institute of Manufacturing in Cambridge, and which was attended by more than 30 local businesses including those from the aerospace, materials handling, food, health and ICT sectors, as well as academics from Queen’s and Ulster University and representatives from industry organisations and government bodies.

Industry-focused Factory of the Future

The event was designed to help to set out a long-term framework for the technology support needed by Northern Ireland’s manufacturing businesses and shape AMIC’s proposed flagship facility, a new industry-focused Factory of the Future at Global Point Business Park in Newtownabbey which will give advanced manufacturing and engineering businesses access to the very latest equipment and expertise.

It will build on 50 years of sustained innovation and industry support through the NITC, the Polymer Processing Research Centre (PPRC) and the more recent university-industry partnership, NI Advanced Composites and Engineering (NIACE) and will consolidate and enhance existing facilities in partnership with Ulster University and Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.

The UK and Northern Irish governments are providing £170m funding towards three Queen’s-led Centres – the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (AMIC), the Global Innovation Institute (GII) and the Institute of Research Excellence for Advanced Clinical Healthcare (iREACH).

Paul Maropoulos, director of AMIC, said: “It is vital that our industry, government and academic stakeholders are strongly involved in the development and establishment of AMIC and that our business plan and priorities are informed by industry, research partners and regional stakeholders, in what we hope is an inclusive and insightful process. 

“At Queen’s we have considerable expertise and a strong track record of manufacturing innovation working closely with industry, and AMIC will help us to further grow that engagement, positioning Northern Ireland alongside national and international networks of Centres of Excellence to create global impact.”

Minister of State for Northern Ireland Conor Burns said: “I am delighted to have been able to see and hear about the significant progress being made on the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre by Queen’s University Belfast, one of the UK government funded projects in the Belfast Region City Deal.

Funding for digital and innovation projects

“The centre will have a transformational impact on Northern Ireland, providing companies with unprecedented access to the latest manufacturing technologies and delivering real change for people and businesses in Northern Ireland. 

“I look forward to learning more about Queen’s University and Ulster University’s collaborative work on innovative projects like AMIC and how the government’s funding for digital and innovation projects, provided through the Belfast Region City Deal, continues to benefit Northern Ireland.”

John Walsh, chief executive of Belfast City Council said: “It’s great to be here today with the minister and our partners at Queen’s University Belfast to share more about the ambitious Belfast Region City Deal plans for the £98m AMIC ahead of further engaging with the industry. AMIC will be a state-of-the-art ‘Factory of the Future’ – a springboard for manufacturing in NI.

“We’re all focused on making a robust contribution to the economy’s recovery and prosperity by harnessing the potential of our most resilient sectors to drive innovation to deliver inclusive growth for both businesses and communities – and a decade of opportunities.”

The Belfast Region City Deal partners comprise Belfast City Council, five partner councils, Queen’s University and Ulster University, and four of the region’s further education colleges.

The NI Executive and the UK government have each committed up to £350m to the City Deal and the BRCD partners will contribute a further £150m. By leveraging additional private sector investment, the partners will deliver a programme with an overall value of more than £1bn, supporting the creation of up to 20,000 jobs.